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Nineteen-year-old Zara Rutherford became the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, arriving back in Belgium on Thursday after an odyssey spanning 52 countries and five continents.
The Belgian-British teenager touched down at Kortrijk-Wevelgem airfield - the final stop in a expedition that kicked off in August and lasted 156 days - greeted by her family, fans and crowds of reporters.
Within hours, Guinness World Records confirmed that Rutherford was indeed the youngest woman to complete the feat, and also the youngest person of any gender to circumnavigate solo in a microlight airplane.
Her personal highlights? Siberia, even though it was in her words, the “hardest past.” “Taiwan, I remember, was gorgeous. And reaching Bulgaria,” she told journalists.
Rutherford beat previous record-holder Shaesta Waiz of the United States, who flew around the planet alone at the age of 30 in 2017.
The male record-holder was 18 years old.
The young pilot has been touting her epic journey on social media, hoping to get more women and girls interested in flying, or science and engineering more broadly.
Rutherford flew an ultralight aircraft made in Europe called a “Shark,” capable of cruising at 300 kilometres per hour, her site states.
The teenager comes from a family of aviators: Both her Belgian mother and her English father are pilots.
She knew first-hand what the inside of a cockpit looked like when she was just a few months old. At 14, she learned how to steer a plane and soon starting working towards her first pilot’s licence.
“Growing up I was always around airplanes,” she said Thursday. After finishing school, she decided is the was the perfect time to “do something crazy” and fly around the world, Rutherford explained.
She is to start her university studies in electrical engineering in September.
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